Feds say Canada’s air defence donation to Ukraine has final hurdle to clear from U.S.

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The Department of National Defence says Canada’s donation of an air-defence system to Ukraine is in the midst of clearing one final administrative hurdle with the U.S. government.

A spokesperson says Ukraine and the U.S. are finalizing a letter of acceptance that will confirm delivery timelines for a surface-to-air missile system Canada pledged to pay for more than a year ago.

Ukraine has been asking allies for air defence systems to help fend off Russian airstrikes and cruise missiles.

It took more than a week to get the response from the Defence Department, which sought information from the U.S. government.

The department spokesperson also says Defence Minister Bill Blair met with U.S. ambassador David Cohen Thursday to ask for an expedited timeline.

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Canada announced the donation of a national advanced surface-to-air missile system, known as NASAMS, in January 2023. It paid the US$406 million for it last March.

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U.S. condemns Russia’s use of North Korean missiles in Ukraine

The U.S. entered into a foreign military sales agreement with Ukraine directly, giving notice to Congress last May. That process continued through the summer and fall.

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The arrangement allows Canada to avoid applying to the U.S. government for further approval to send the system on to Ukraine, which is needed any time American military technology is sold outside the country.

“The United States and Ukraine are currently working on finalizing the letter of acceptance, which outlines the donation and the expectations on its use and confirms delivery timelines. The letter of acceptance is the final administrative step in the FMS process,” Defence Department spokesman Alexandre Tetreault wrote in an email Friday.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been ramping up the pressure on allies to provide more air support for the embattled country.

“Our entire diplomatic team, everyone in charge of communicating with partners, and all Ukrainian representatives around the world are fully committed to ensuring the delivery of additional air defence systems and ammunition,” he said in a Jan. 4 post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Ukraine says the medium-range missile systems are critical to defending its territory from Russian bombardment. They’re capable of taking down aircraft, drones and cruise missiles.

Zelenskyy also posted on Jan. 1 about a conversation he had with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying “I am grateful to Prime Minister Trudeau for his willingness to assist us in protecting the Ukrainian sky, particularly by providing additional NASAMS systems and missiles.”

It is not clear whether Zelenskyy was referring to the system Canada agreed to pay for last year, or if the two spoke about a new donation. The Prime Minister’s Office refused to clarify.

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